Film Review: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Release Date: July 7th, 1977 (London premiere)
Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
Written by: Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: Marvin Hamlisch
Cast: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell

Eon Productions, United Artists, 125 Minutes

Review:

“Mmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.” – James Bond

It has been a really long time since I’ve seen this particular James Bond movie, which is why I wanted to pop it into the DVD player. My memories of it weren’t spectacular but I really enjoyed it this time around and I now rank it really high in the Roger Moore era.

But what’s not to like?

You have Roger Moore, who is Roger friggin’ Moore. Then you have Barbara Bach as the female Soviet equivalent to Bond. This film also introduces Jaws, played by my favorite giant (after Peter Mayhew), Richard Kiel. Plus Curd Jürgens’ Karl Stromberg is one of the best non-SPECTRE villains in the entire Bond franchise. And I certainly can’t forget the apple of my eye, Caroline Munro.

One thing that also makes this entry into the massive Bond franchise so great is the locations. I loved all the stuff that was filmed in Egypt. The scene with Bond and Amasova tracking Jaws through the giant pillars is one of the best sequences in the entire film series. Also, the scene during the pyramid light show has some of the coolest shots and cinematography in the franchise.

Additionally, the set of Stromberg’s underwater fortress was well built and designed. The place looked sinister as hell and had a very brooding vibe, as it sprouted from the ocean surface.

This film, looking at it now, features the best tandem of Bond girls, in my opinion. Bach is perfect in her role as Major Anya Amasova a.k.a. Agent XXX. She owned the part and was much more than just a pretty face needing to be rescued. Of course, she did need to be rescued in the end. Caroline Munro, who is incredibly stunning, looked like she was having a blast as the helicopter pilot trying to kill Bond and Amasova. She had the right mix of sexual allure and sadism. I just wish she had more time to shine in the picture.

The fights between Bond and Jaws were well executed and the fisticuffs played out well. I was glad that they created Jaws as this unstoppable character that survives the craziest situations only to stand and fight, again and again. I was really glad to see him return for this film’s direct sequel Moonraker.

My memories of this movie weren’t great but this is one of the Bond films I have seen the least. I’m glad that my memory was wrong and that I got to see this in a different light. Or maybe I’ve been watching so much crap lately, that anything with a semblance of quality would’ve made me happy.

Film Review: Vampire Circus (1972)

Release Date: April 30th, 1972 (UK)
Directed by: Robert Young
Written by: Judson Kinberg, George Baxt, Wilbur Stark
Music by: David Whitaker
Cast: Adrienne Corri, Anthony Higgins, John Moulder-Brown, Lalla Ward, Robin Sachs, Lynne Frederick, David Prowse

Hammer Film Productions, Rank Film Distributors Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 87 Minutes

Review:

“The Circus of Nights! A hundred delights!” – Michael

Vampire Circus is a little known Hammer Studios film from the early 1970s, when they were on their way out as a dominant horror studio. It came out at the same time that Hammer’s Dracula series was winding down.

I have always liked Hammer’s non-Dracula vampire spectacles, however. And to fanboy out a little bit, Vampire Circus has always been a favorite of mine. That may have something to do with Darth Vader himself, David Prowse, being in the film, as well as one of my favorite Doctor Who companions of all-time, the second Romana, Lalla Ward. Realistically, I just love the premise.

The story is pretty original and really fun. A troupe of circus gypsies shows up in town and captivates the people. The reality is that they are vampires out to get revenge on the town for killing their master Count Mitterhaus.

Speaking of which, the opening sequence, which features the original defeat of Mitterhaus, is one of the best things Hammer has ever created. It was also a great way for director Robert Young to start his career, as it was the opening to his first feature film.

Vampire Circus is really imaginative and it certainly isn’t a cookie cutter vampire flick. The circus twist is really cool and freshened things up for the genre. Everything from the live performances to the animal stunts just added a really cool vibe to the picture. It certainly had a bit more flair than other Hammer vampire movies.

Additionally, the cast was really good. I really enjoyed the performances of Adrienne Corri and Anthony Higgins. Higgins was particularly mesmerizing as the sexy male vampire that transforms into a black panther. Skip Martin, as the sinister dwarf, was a big highlight too. He was legitimately scary and intimidating for a little fellow. He played up the creepy clown shtick quite well, before creepy clowns were even a thing.

The style of the film mimics what was the norm for Hammer’s gothic horror pictures. Even if it may have felt dated for the time, its creativity certainly makes up for it being stylistically derivative. Plus there is a naked body painted tiger lady that rolls around all frisky and seductive.

Vampire Circus is probably only a good film for those who love the work of Hammer Studios in their heyday. But if you are one of those people, this is a unique experience that deviates quite well from their typical formula while not venturing so far away that it isn’t a Hammer picture.

Plus, Count Mitterhaus, Emil and the Gypsy Woman were pretty cool villains, as was their troupe of circus themed henchmen.

Film Review: Die Another Day (2002)

Release Date: November 20th, 2002 (UK)
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, John Cleese, Judi Dench

Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 133 Minutes

Review:

“I have been known to keep my tip up.” – James Bond

Die Another Day is the film I consider to be the worst James Bond picture of all-time. While I felt like it played better than I remembered, having revisited it for the first time since its release a decade and a half ago, it still takes the cake, as far as bad Bond movies go.

While Pierce Brosnan was a damn good Bond, his movies are borderline abysmal, minus Goldeneye, his debut.

The Brosnan films came out in a time when motion pictures were getting more serious and less campy. Unfortunately, these play almost like parodies of the very playful and sometimes hokey films of the Roger Moore era. It also didn’t help that the Austin Powers franchise came along and sort of dumped these movies on their head. All of this is why the character of Bond went away for four years after this film and came back revamped and more serious with the start of the Daniel Craig era.

Like every other movie from the Brosnan era, this was a marketing machine, made to sell a bunch of shit that was featured in the picture. Unfortunately, regardless of how much money you have in your bank account, you can’t buy an invisible Aston Martin. And the fact that that is a thing in this movie, should tell you how ridiculous this flick is, even for James Bond standards. This is the movie that really jumped the shark with its use of gadgetry.

The film is also mired by the inclusion of Halle Berry as the character Jinx, which was done in an effort to create a spin-off franchise for her. That franchise never saw the light of day because she truly sucked in this film and despite trying to sell her as a female bad ass, for the most part, she was just another Bond damsel in distress. Ultimately, she was unconvincing regardless of how cool and tough they tried to make her seem. I don’t necessarily blame Berry for this though, as the character was poorly written and the director seemed to be dialing it in.

The stunts were a mixed bad of good and god awful. The CGI effects were friggin’ atrocious, even for the time. Just look at the scene where Bond is kite surfing a giant wave and try not to cringe.

Also, the film’s plot is just a bit of a rehash of Goldeneye. It’s story doesn’t justify its existence and the pens behind this tale really should have given us something better than another killer satellite story.

There are a few small positives, however.

The first is the opening sequence in North Korea. It was really well done and felt like a classic Bond sequence. Of course, everything goes completely downhill after the credits.

Also, I really liked Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost. I thought she was a better than decent Bond girl and much more interesting than Berry’s Jinx.

Lastly, the film features Pierce Brosnan, the man who is usually the biggest highlight of any film that he is in.

The last big gripe however is in regards to the villain. He’s a North Korean general’s bratty kid who gets plastic surgery to look like a smarmy elitist white dude. The whole thing is just stupid. Although, the henchman with the diamond face was cool and had a classic Bond villain vibe to him.

Die Another Day is a film that shelved the franchise and caused it to be rebooted and reinvented. It is awful in just about every way. There are literally two dozen Bond movies that are better than this pile of crap.

So does it deserved to be ran through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Of course it does! And the results speak for themselves! What we have here is a “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.”

Film Review: Attack the Block (2011)

Release Date: March 12th, 2011 (SXSW)
Directed by: Joe Cornish
Written by: Joe Cornish
Music by: Basement Jaxx, Steven Price
Cast: Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, Nick Frost

StudioCanal, Film4 Productions, UK Film Council, Big Talk Productions, Stage 6 Films, Screen Gems, 88 Minutes

Review:

“No one is going to call you Mayhem if you keep acting like such a pussy!” – Probs

I haven’t watched this film since it initially came out in the States. But revisiting it now, I was reminded of how cool and fun this movie is. In all honesty, this is one of the coolest movies of this decade and it also helped propel the careers of a few of its stars. Plus, Nick Frost is in it and Edgar Wright was involved with the production.

Attack the Block is a fantastic picture, to put it simply. It is imaginative, energetic and a fresh take on the tired alien invasion storyline.

The film starts out with a mugging by a gang of London thugs. However, the victim (Whittaker) gets away when something falls from the sky, smashing a car next to the muggers. Investigating, the muggers discover it is some sort of vicious alien creature. It attacks the leader, Moses (Boyega), and gets away. The thugs then pursue the alien in an effort to kill it. You come to discover that the thugs are just young teenage boys and the film peeks into their lives, humanizing them after committing an atrocious act to kickoff the story. As the film progresses, the boys and the victim discover that they live in the same building and have to come together to survive the invasion and a pissed off drug dealer. Ultimately, it is a coming of age story about Moses having to rise up, become a hero and redeem himself from his bad choices and actions.

The thing that makes this picture special is the style of it. The alien creatures are incredibly original and sort of resemble a hybrid of a big wolf and a gorilla with jet black fur and a glowing neon blue mouth full of sharp teeth. The building where the majority of the film takes place is cold and lifeless but the cinematography and lighting are absolutely superb.

Even though all the kids are little shits, they all become endearing in some way and you can’t help but like them, which is the point, really. You have these asshole kids but they are just kids and despite their bad life choices, they don’t deserve to die. The film does a great job of conveying the right sort of emotions from the victim and the thugs while they learn to trust each other and become not just allies but friends.

I don’t think that the story would have worked as well without the casting being just right. Jodie Whittaker, who is now the first female incarnation of the Doctor from Doctor Who, and John Boyega, a household name now because of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, had a wonderful chemistry and they carried this unique and great picture on their shoulders. Franz Drameh, who would go on to be in Edge of Tomorrow and star in The CW’s The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, also held his own as a member of Moses’ gang.

The film also benefits from a prodigious score that is actually one of the best from the past decade. It hits the right notes, keeps the energy flowing and just encapsulates the tone and style of the film in an uncanny way. It is a perfect accompaniment to the visuals.

Attack the Block is a damn good motion picture. It is straight to the point, quick moving and builds up the characters just enough without it getting in the way of the excitement. The ending is also extremely satisfying.

 

Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Release Date: December 13th, 2014 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: The Secret Service by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Music by: Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill

Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 129 Minutes

Review:

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Harry Hart

I missed this when it initially came out in the theater a few years back and then it sort of got lost in the shuffle of time. However, I’ve really heard nothing but great things about it since it came out and I wanted to give it a watch now that its sequel is coming out.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed and in fact, I was really impressed with the film but I guess I can expect great things from Matthew Vaughn after he gave us Layer CakeKick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. Plus, this thing had a solid cast with Colin Firth, Sam Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill, Sofia Boutella and impressive newcomers Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson.

It is impossible to not compare this film to the James Bond series, as it is a gadget-filled British action spy thriller. The main difference, is this is more of a comedy and features a young spy coming into the fold. Kingsman, though, is a much hipper take on the genre.

You see, as James Bond was forced to evolve into a more serious series at the beginning of the Daniel Craig era, the jovial spirit of the franchise has been missing. It is understandable that it had to change, as films like Austin Powers were parodying it to the point of no return and the Pierce Brosnan era (no fault of Brosnan’s) had gotten too hokey and playful for its own good.

Kingsman brings us back to that classic Bond energy without being overly cheesy. It somehow found the perfect balance between serious and playful for the modern era. It is also cooler than the modern Bond movies and a lot more interesting. It fills the giant void that has been gone for a long time and it has kind of cemented itself in there. In fact, the James Bond franchise could learn a lot from this film.

Parts of the movie, however, are a bit insane and very stylized. The thing is, it works to this film’s benefit. Kingsman knows what it is and it really embraces itself, for better or for worse. That being said, its self-confidence permeates with something truly genuine and fantastically bad ass. It has gravitas that the uber serious modern Bond pictures don’t have. And don’t get me wrong, I generally like the Craig Bond films but Kingsman is the true throwback to the classic era of spy thrillers, even if it brings its own refreshing take to the table.

The entire cast is extraordinary and there really isn’t a weak link. Taron Egerton was perfect casting as the main character, Eggsy. Samuel Jackson, Michael Caine and Mark Strong each had a great presence. It was cool seeing Mark Hamill and Sofia Boutella, now most famous as the newest version of the title character in The Mummy.

It is Colin Firth that really takes the cake in the picture, though. This is a great role for him, a man who has played just about everything and won an Oscar in the process. Honestly, as much as I loved him in The King’s Speech, this is now my favorite Firth role.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a wonderful experience, especially for old school James Bond fans that have been yearning for something in that classic style. While this is a very modernized take on the genre, it truly knows its roots and it balances the new with the old pretty seamlessly. Most importantly, the film is exciting and fun.

 

Film Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Release Date: July 13th, 2017 (Odeon Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

Syncopy Inc., Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

Review:

“Where’s the bloody air force?” – Irate Soldier

At one point, Christopher Nolan was my favorite modern director. Interstellar left a bad taste in my mouth, Inception was cool but tedious and I’ve always thought that Memento was a bit overrated. However, The Prestige and The Dark Knight Trilogy are some of the best examples of filmmaking in the last decade or so. When it comes to Nolan, I always remember the positives and I will always give his films the opportunity to captivate me.

Dunkirk is not a perfect motion picture, many films rarely are. However, it is solid, strong and a true return to form for the British auteur.

War movies have run their course for me. Many of them are just more of the same. They’ve become incredibly derivative and they all just sort of blur together. That is, until one that is unique or exceptional comes along. I wouldn’t quite label Dunkirk as exceptional but I would say that it is unique.

The film picks up right in the action and never lets up. It is pretty relentless but not so much so that you are forced into a stressful and intense two hour action sequence. There is enough story and character building to make you care about the people in the film, even if you really just get to peek into these men’s lives for a day or so.

The acting is incredible and the cinematography is beautiful and immensely breathtaking. The scenes with the fighter pilots are a real treat and the true highlight of the film. Especially with Tom Hardy just owning every scene he is in, even if he doesn’t have a lot of dialogue throughout most of the movie.

The scenes featuring Cillian Murphy are fabulous. He plays a soldier rescued at sea who is shellshocked by the attacks he’s survived. His character creates some major problems for others in the film but you can’t feel anything but sadness for him, despite the consequences of his actions. Frankly, Murphy proves time and time again that he is one of the best actors of the modern era but I don’t see him in enough films.

James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh command the screen when they are present. Branagh always has this sort of effect but it is great seeing D’Arcy really shine and get to sink his teeth into something meaty.

The only real negative about this film is that the multiple characters and their missions are all edited quickly together and the film jumps back and forth between them all. The issue, is that the timelines for each set of characters doesn’t line up. So when the boat scenes cut to the fighter jet scenes, we’re not seeing the same passage of time, yet they are edited together for dramatic effect. Honestly, I would have preferred the film to just sort of happen chronologically, as it would have been easier to follow. I don’t know if this was done to come off as more of an artistic approach or if it was just to make the action sequences flow a bit better but I had to keep reminding myself that certain things were happening from a different point-of-view that I had already seen earlier.

Dunkirk is still pretty incredible and it shows that Nolan has still got it. It also shows that war films don’t have to tread the same path or tell another version of the same story we’ve seen countless times. It’s also nice seeing a major World War II film that has nothing to do with America. Besides, the Dunkirk incident is an incredible story and it deserved to be told on the big screen, which hasn’t been done since the mostly forgotten 1958 film of the same name.

 

Ranking Every Doctor of Doctor Who

This is a hard list to compile, as I haven’t disliked a single Doctor in the long history of Doctor Who. However, some were better than others and this is my attempt to quantify that in some fashion.

Just because someone ranks in at the bottom spot, doesn’t mean they weren’t worthy of the role. The people behind the show have always done a great job in finding people that fit The Doctor.

Some of the ones at the bottom are also only there because they made only a few appearances and didn’t have the time to really shine in the role over a season or more.

1. Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)
2. Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)
3. Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)
4. Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)
5. Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)
6. Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)
7. Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)
8. Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)
9. Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)
10. Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)
11. First Doctor (William Hartnell)
12. Movie Doctor (Peter Cushing)
13. Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)
14. War Doctor (John Hurt)